– The Chinese government confirmed Jan. 23 that it had used a missile to destroy one of its own satellites but insisted the test should not be viewed as a hostile act or as a shift in
‘s position that space should be a demilitarized zone.
The Chinese anti-satellite test also prompted a U.S. State Department assertion that no nation, including the
, should destroy orbiting satellites because the debris created in heavily populated orbital corridors could pose a danger to operating satellites.
In a Jan. 23 press briefing in Beijing, Liu Jianchao, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said: “Neither has China participated, nor will it participate, in an arms race in outer space, in any form,” according to a transcript of his remarks provided by the ministry.
Liu’s statement was
‘s first public acknowledgement that
successfully demonstrated an anti-satellite weapon. According to
officials, the test occurred Jan. 11 when a medium-range, ground-launched ballistic missile destroyed the retired Chinese meteorological satellite, FY-1C, in or near its operational near-polar orbit at about 865 kilometers in altitude.
had informed the “relevant parties, including the
,” of the anti-satellite test after the fact. “
has nothing to conceal on this matter,” he said. “
briefed the parties concerned on the outer space experiment soon after they expressed their concern. …
‘s principled position of opposing weaponization and an arms race in outer space remains unchanged. Meanwhile, I’d like to emphasize that this experiment is not targeted at any one country, nor will it pose a threat to any country.”
Asked whether further anti-satellite demonstrations were planned, Liu said he had not been informed of any. Addressing Japanese complaints that
has not been sufficiently open about the test, Liu said
, like the
, had been briefed. “I don’t know what other information
needs,” he said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Jan. 22 said the Chinese Foreign Ministry had discussed the anti-satellite test in
with Christopher R. Hill, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, who was on a previously scheduled trip in
But McCormack said the Chinese have yet to fully explain their intentions in performing the demonstration.
“We’re looking for … a greater understanding of exactly what their intent was, what the specifics were surrounding this test, as well as any programs they may have to conduct future tests, or any details of the program of which this was a part,” McCormack said in a State Department press briefing. “This is designed, really, to avoid any sort of misunderstandings not only with the
, but with other countries around the world.”
The U.S. Air Force has conducted similar anti-satellite tests in the past, but deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Jan. 19 that
policy has changed since the last
anti-satellite demonstration in 1985.
“We don’t believe that anyone should be doing these kinds of activities,” Casey said in a press briefing. “Twenty-two years ago, there was a Cold War between the
. There were a number of factors related to that that dictated quite a different policy on the part of the
than exists now.
“More importantly, though, I think you need to look at the development of space in those past 22 years. … Not only the United States, but countries throughout the world are dependent on space-based technologies – weather satellites, communications satellites and other devices to be able to conduct modern life as we know it. And so the consequences of any kind of activity like this are significantly greater now than they were at that time.”